Leopards write off Poets with a weekend sweep

Freshman designated hitter Malachi Francois winds up to get a piece of the ball against the Whittier Poets on April 15 at Ben Hines Field. The Leopards collected their 22nd win of 2022 in seven innings, 17-5. The Leopards swept the Poets in three games and will take on Pomona-Pitzer this weekend. photo by Jingyao Liang
Freshman designated hitter Malachi Francois winds up to get a piece of the ball against the Whittier Poets on April 15 at Ben Hines Field. The Leopards collected their 22nd win of 2022 in seven innings, 17-5. The Leopards swept the Poets in three games and will take on Pomona-Pitzer this weekend. / photo by Jingyao Liang

Sarah Van Buskirk
Sports Editor

The baseball team won 17-5 in a seven inning mercy rule after pitching settled in against rival Whittier on April 15 at Ben Hines Field. The win opened an explosive three game sweep of the Poets.

Senior pitcher Sean Holt opened the first game on the rubber for the Leopards now with a record of 9-1 and 2.40 ERA. 

He started off rocky getting stuck in multiple-men-on-base situations but after a few innings, Holt was comfortable and made his way out of some jams. 

Head coach Scott Winterburn had a few visits to the mound but decided to hold off on bringing in the bullpen, allowing Holt to pitch six innings. 

“Winterburn came out to the mound and really helped me settle down when I was giving up hits,” Holt said. “Pitching six innings allowed me to give our bullpen a rest.”

In the top of the first inning, the Poets struck first after an RBI single by senior center fielder Dane Goodman. The damage was curbed after Whittier freshman first baseman Maximus Berber was tagged out at third base to end the inning. 

An early scare for the Leopards came when the lead-off hitter, sophomore second baseman Chase Siffert, was hit by a pitch on his helmet, drawing blood. The athletic trainer came to the plate and took Siffert to perform some concussion protocols. Sophomore pinch runner Cole McCollum took his place on first. 

A few batters later, freshman left fielder Logan Reese hit a groundout RBI which brought McCollum home and evened the score, 1-1.

“The first time through the order was kind of a struggle for everyone,” Siffert said. “But then we settled in and got back to the plan we have had for the whole season.”

In the top of the second inning, Siffert was back on second base and the Poets took the lead with two RBI singles, making the score 3-1. After a fly out, the Leopards were given the chance to rebuttal but a quick 1-2-3 inning sent them back on defense. 

The third inning was where Holt found his sweet spot, shutting down the Poets for the next two innings. 

The Leopards jumped on the opportunity to take the lead in the bottom of the third with a two out rally. 

Reese landed another RBI ground out to bring junior first baseman Tanner Siffert home. Following up was freshman designated hitter Malachi Francois, who hit an RBI single up the middle to send junior right fielder Brandon Shiota home and tie up the game, 3-3.

“It definitely caught me off guard the way Whittier started off putting us on our heels and shocking us for a bit,” Shiota said. “But I brought the team up by saying we just need to play our brand of baseball by playing with veteran savviness and the younger guys sticking to what they have been told.”

On deck was sophomore third baseman Cameron Slessor who singled to right, advancing Francois. 

A huge play was made by junior catcher Christian Killian after he hit a two RBI single and rounded the bases to third due to an error by the Poets’ outfielders. Killian was able to come home after a wild pitch from the Poets.

After a single and stolen base by junior second baseman Drew Reddick, sophomore shortstop Anthony Salcedo brought Reddick home on a single. The Leopards took a 7-3 lead going into the fourth inning.

Expanding their lead in the fourth inning, the Leopards put together four RBIs from Shiota, Slessor, and Killian. 

The Poets responded in the top of the fifth after an RBI and an error by Holt, putting two more runs on the board after being dormant for a couple innings. 

The bottom of the fifth and top of the sixth were 1-2-3 innings for both teams and the Leopards were now at bat. 

The bottom of the sixth inning was an active one for the Leopards as they scored their final points of the game. Base hits were nonstop and runs were stacking up to make the Leopard lead 17-5. 

“Once we started to string together some better quality at bats, it put pressure on their defense and pitcher,” Tanner Siffert said. “That allowed us to succeed and execute what we needed to get done.”

Sophomore pitcher Ryan McLernon closed out the game for the Leopards, pitching a half inning which finalized the score, 17-5.

With a Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference record of 16-2, the Leopards have two conference series left in the regular season. This weekend’s series is against Pomona-Pitzer as they will travel to Alumni Field at 3 p.m. Friday and then host the Sagehens at 11 a.m. Saturday for a doubleheader at Ben Hines Field. 

Sarah Van Buskirk can be reached at sarah.vanbuskirk@laverne.edu.

Sarah Van Buskirk is a senior journalism major with a concentration in print and online journalism. She is the Spring 2024 editorial director for the Campus Times and has recently served as editor-in-chief, sports editor and staff writer. She is also currently a staff photographer for the Campus Times and La Verne Magazine, and a staff writer for La Verne Magazine.

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